US Vice President Joe Biden, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and an extensive roster of celebrities and elected officials joined visitors from across the United States as they flocked to Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor and the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine last night to take part in the centerpiece events of the week-long Star-Spangled Spectacular. The celebration of the bicentennial of our National Anthem – which included more than 30 tall ships and U.S. Navy vessels, festivals, living history demonstrations and the Blue Angels – peaked with a two-hour, nationally televised live special on THIRTEEN’S Great Performances on PBS.
Two hundred years ago, Francis Scott Key penned the words that would became our national anthem as he watched from a ship in the harbor as British forces relentlessly bombed Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore.
Joining Vice President Biden and Governor O’Malley at Fort McHenry last night were U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The entertainment program at Fort McHenry consisted of musical performances by the United States Marine Band, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, renowned tenor Rolando Sanz, a performance by the Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps, Morgan State University choir, Pipes and Drums of the British Army’s 1st Battalion Scots Guards and a raising of a 30-foot by 42-foot Star-Spangled Banner flag.
“The defense of Fort McHenry is an important chapter in our nation’s history – that story of courage, resilience, and inter-dependence still resonates today,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “What a thrill to know that Americans everywhere were celebrating alongside us as we commemorated the 200th anniversary of our National Anthem.”
At the same time the festivities were taking place at Fort McHenry, a second star-studded concert was being held across the harbor at Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion. Hosted by actor John Lithgow and co-hosted by Sparks, the performance featuring Kristin Chenoweth, Melissa Etheridge, Denyce Graves-Montgomery, Little Big Town, Pentatonix, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Paulo Szot and Train was broadcast live on THIRTEEN’S Great Performances on PBS. Among the 21 songs performed were “This Land Is Your Land” (Train and Melissa Etheridge), “My Country Tis of Thee” (Pentatonix), and “America the Beautiful” (Little Big Town, Kenny Rogers).
The evening’s musical entertainment was complemented by a historic fireworks display from Fireworks by Grucci, featuring a pixel-by-pixel pyrotechnic display of the Star-Spangled Banner above Fort McHenry and the Inner Harbor. The fireworks show, designed as a 21st century reimagining of the sights and sounds that inspired Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner, incorporated PixelBurst™ technology to illuminate a massive flag image in the sky over Charm City.
The record-breaking display, set to 23 separate pieces of music, required a nine-day installation process, 38 hours to choreograph, more than 4,300 hours to set up and 40 pyro technicians to execute.
Star-Spangled 200 is a multi-year commemoration that celebrates the 200th anniversary of our national anthem. Star-Spangled Sailabration in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay launched the events in June 2012. Sailabration included a maritime festival with 45 vessels from a dozen nations and an airshow featuring the Blue Angels, and drew more than 1.5 million visitors. Star-Spangled 200 continued Spring 2013 through Summer 2014 with the Chesapeake Campaign, a series of more than a dozen festivals in waterfront communities around the Bay. Two conferences were held at the U.S. Naval Academy in 2013 – Cross Tech, June 10-11 and From Enemies to Allies, June 12-15 – bringing together leaders in cyber security and scholars from the U.K, Canada and the U.S. Events culminate with Star-Spangled Spectacular, September 10-16, 2014, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem.